We are all together for the second week in a row, this time for Counselors Academy in Austin.

There were bats, the weather was hot and humid, and Mark Wahlberg was staying in our hotel. Despite every effort to stalk him, I didn’t see him, but there was a sighting the last night of the conference, after I’d left. Clearly he was avoiding me.

As it turns out, we were there to actually learn. Because of that, I attended the pre-conference session about creating photos for your content.

As Joe points out during the podcast, most communicators use stock photos to clear a copyright, but it’s shocking how many use the same images as everyone else. When you create your own photos, the copyright belongs to you and they complement the beautiful content you’ve created.

The instructor, Paul M. Bowers, made a great analogy. He said you can write beautiful copy to describe a meal or a dish, but until you see it on a plate, you don’t fully understand how good it might be.

Photos appeal to all of our senses and, in his example, makes you want to eat what you’re seeing. The goal is to elicit feeling from your readers when a beautiful photo is attached to it.

He provided five tips:

  • The six inch rule
  • The rule of thirds
  • Negative space
  • Lighting
  • Foreground and background

During the foreground and background assignment, Martin served as my creative consultant. You can see the results (and other photos) on Spin Sucks.

As Joe says, “The world is full of interesting things. Why use an image everyone else is using from Creative Commons? Go out there and shoot something for yourself.”

Now armed with these tips, you can!


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  1. I would take it a step further and encourage public relations practitioners to do what they do best — create strategies and plans for communications for their clients — and hire a professional photographer or videographer to create the imagery that you use with your clients. Having an intern use a point-and-shoot camera just so you can say you “shot it ourselves” is going to hurt in the long run. You don’t have the proper training to compose images properly, pose people correctly, light the scene, or polish off the finished images. You don’t give away your PR counsel, so why do you insist on getting photography and videography for free or low cost when the outputs you get reflect the lack of investment?

    For more thoughts on this topic, please read my blog post at http://wp.me/p10SEo-Wg.

    Steve Lubetkin, APR, Fellow, PRSA
    Managing Partner, Lubetkin Media Companies
    [email protected]
    @PodcastSteve on Twitter

  2. Thanks Steve. I enjoyed your blog post. You make a good point about the importance of professionalism in the work we do for our clients. I wonder if we need a couple of streams for the content we produce, once of which is, as Dana Hughens says, ‘social media quality’. That is, it’s thoughtful, well-written with insights, intelligence and heart but because it’s more DIY, may not be as polished as some of the other work we produce. Interested to hear your take.

  3. Hi, Martin. As you might suspect, I’m not a fan of the “good enough for social media” differentiation between professional grade content and mediocre crappy amateur point-and-shoot stuff. I think every bit of content a PR agency delivers on behalf of a client represents the client’s image, and if you use poor quality photos or video on social media you are sending a negative message. I think everything you deliver should be professional quality. Just because the technology enables you to shoot a poorly lit, bad audio, shaky video on your phone doesn’t mean you should deliver that for your client and excuse the quality by saying it’s “social media quality.” There is no excuse for not producing the best for all channels.

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